Construction of a temporary single lane bridge over the Elbow River on Highway 66
News Update: Thursday, August 1. It’s complicated. The engineering and construction of a temporary bridge over a flood ravaged river in itself is a challenge. Then you have to consider environmental impact and the interests of the contractor, Alberta Transport and Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. Then you have people like me hoovering around in anticipation of the reopening of the Elbow Valley. Given all that the best estimate for the first crossing of the bridge is Friday, August 2 at 4 PM.
Tuesday, July 30. They are just installing the last road span on the extended temporary bridge. They still have to do some ironwork and make adjustments to the bridge. Then they can finish the access ramps, install railings and the traffic control lights. Alberta Transportation will open the bridge and provide access to the Elbow Valley on Friday just in time for the Heritage Day holiday weekend.
When it reopens there will be long waits as it is a single lane bridge with a long access and egress ramps. There is a lot of excited anticipation among those who regularly recreate in the Elbow Valley. Every time I visit there are people milling about. When we get in, rumour has it that there will be significant damage to some of our favoured places like Elbow Falls. It is possible that Allen Bill Pond will never be restored. This is the third time the dam that forms the pond has been repaired. Maybe there are things mother nature just can’t abide.
As of Thur. July 25,Alberta Transport has decided to extend the temporary bridge. They are making progress on the extension. The base of an abutment is visible. They have dredged another channel. The bridge will be extended, adding another span so they can widen the river bed.
The bridge was open on Tuesday, July 23 for one day to allow restricted acces for industry and evacuation.
Alberta Transport and Volker-Stevin and in particular their crew, have done a great job getting this alternate bridge installed in just over a month. Now they can turn their attention to the repair of the permanent bridge. That’s why they widened the river bed on the west side, so they can adjust the opposite river bank providing space for them to work on the main bridge. They intend to add another span to the east end of the bridge, extending it over the eroded bank where the huge gap is now.
Many trails are closed
Check the Conservation Officers trail report. They seem to mean it when they say trails are closed. All of the Little Elbow Recreation Area trails are closed. The Trail Report says, “Note that all areas of Elbow River Provincial Recreation Area on the south side of HIghway 66 and east of the driveway to Elbow Falls Day Use Area are closed by Ministerial Order 14/13, issued July 23rd.” Also, “We anticipate Hwy 66 opening Aug. 2nd at 4:00 pm and will update this report accordingly once more information becomes available.
As much as Bragg Creek is a Gateway to Kananaskis, the bridge that spans the Elbow River near what was Allen Bill Pond on Highway 66 is surely the Gateway to the Elbow Valley. That gate is now closed and you can’t drive to Elbow Falls. The valley is located about 1/2-hour west of Calgary Alberta in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. There are hundreds of kilometres of trails accessible from trailheads and recreation areas along the 15 kilometres of roadway from the bridge to the end of the road at the Little Elbow Recreation Area. The valley is reported to be the most popular provincial recreation area in Alberta with about 1/2-million visitors per year. Its main attraction year-round is Elbow Falls, a popular scenic attraction and picnic area. So when the abutment on the bridge got destroyed by a surge of water 5 times larger than the previous “flood of the century” in 2005, the loss of access to a highly valued natural area was felt far and wide. Cyclists, hikers, paddlers, climbers, runners, campers, picnickers and horseback riders all lost access to one of their favoured destinations.
At the peak of the flooding, reported on June 20, the flow rate of water was 560 cubic metres per second. The force of the water swept away shoreline and boulders placed along the bridge abutment. The bridge is located on a slight curve and there is a rock wall forming the shoreline. As the torrent of water and debris pounded into the shoreline and the eastern abutment of the bridge it bent and broke so that the end of the bridge dropped over 1/2-metre. Although the bridge is still standing, it is severely compromised and will require major repairs or a replacement. Alberta Transportation hopes to have that work done before winter, but for now they are installing a temporary bridge. Shell oil company and other energy companies have major operations in the area and they are participating in the reconstruction.
See more photos in the photo gallery below.
Alberta Transportation Road Closure Info
- starting 2013-06-26
- Highway 66 is closed from Elbow Falls Winter Closure Gate to Elbow River bridge. It’s estimated that the bridge will re-open to the travelling public with the use of a single lane temporary bridge which will have some speed and other restrictions imposed early August 2013.The construction of a permanent bridge, subject to safety, environmental, construction and weather issues is planned to be completed in or around late November 2013.
Last Update: Wed. July 31, 2013
This update is available online here: 511 Alberta
Highway 758: Note New Schedule for reopening is September not November
- Flooding or Washout
- road closed starting 2013-06-20
- Highway 758 road washout near Bragg Creek is closed to through traffic due to flooding. There is no through traffic but the road on both sides of the actual washout is open to traffic. Subject to Safety, Environmental, Construction and Weather issues its planned that this roadway will be re-opened to the travelling public in or around mid September 2013.
Last Update: Thu Aug. 1, 2013
This update is available online here: http://511.alberta.ca/map
Images will be added from time-to-time to keep up with the progress in the restoration of the Elbow Valley.